Dr Melissa Oldham of the University of Sheffield cites money, leisure and work as reasons for a decline in youth drinking


University of Sheffield professor researches youth drinking

University of Sheffield professor researches youth drinking

Dr Melissa Oldham is the lead author of an important report published by the University of Sheffield's Alcohol Research Group revealing that there has been a sharp decline in youth drinking across all age groups over the last 15 years. Young people are now less likely to drink and, if they do drink, they start doing so later, drink less often and consume smaller amounts.

The report is part of a new project funded by the Wellcome Trust to examine and explain the decline in youth drinking.

Revealing important findings

Melissa says that she and her team used data from two large international surveys. They found that young people are less likely to drink, and when they do drink, they drink less. They're also less likely to binge drink, they drink less frequently and they also start drinking later.

"There's lots of possible explanations for why young people are drinking less," adds Melissa. "So specifically it could be economic factors. Young people could be more concerned about disposable income as house prices have increased and so have tuition fees."

Melissa also cites a change in leisure activities as another possible factor that has contributed to the decline in youth drinking. "Young people are spending their leisure time differently, so at home rather than actually in person with their friends, so alcohol has less of a place in that."

The University of Sheffield's report also reveals that young people's fear of unemployability may have also encouraged a decline in drinking alcohol. "Alcohol has given a lasting legacy of drunkeness where by if you have photos of yourself drunk online it could be a problem in terms of future employability," comments Melissa.

Taking their research further

Melissa says although they expected to see this decline, they were surprised by the magnitude of changes over time. The University of Sheffield's Alcohol Research Group also plans to take their research further.

"We are definitely interested in looking at the effects of the trends in different sub-groups so at the moment this is sort of a population level that we're looking at but we are planning to break it down and look at student groups separately, people who live at home with their parents and people who don't, alongside demographic effect as well. So hopefully that's something we'll know about in the next few months," adds Melissa.

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